THE NUMBER of people planning to buy a car is at the lowest level for at least six years, it was disclosed.

A total of 5.14 million intend to make a new or used-car purchase in the next six months, according to a survey by Sainsbury's Finance.

This is 19% down on the intention-to-buy total of 6.33 million for the period March-August 2009 and is the lowest six-month figure since these types of surveys were started in March 2003.

The number planning to buy a brand-new car in the next six months is down to just 1.1 million - a 21% drop on the figure 12 months ago.

The total expected to be spent on cars in the next six months is £39 billion - the first time a six-month figure has fallen below the £40 billion mark.

About 1.26 million people anticipate spending more than £10,000 on a car, while 467,000 say they plan to spend more than £21,000.

East Anglia is set to see the biggest rise in the number of people buying a car, with an increase of 11% on the previous six months.

Consumers in south-east England plan to spend the most on cars - £9.1 billion - in the next six months but the number from this area intending to make a purchase is down 3.1% on the March-August 2009 total.

The biggest drop in planning-to-buy numbers is in the West Midlands where 13% fewer consumers intend to make a purchase over the next six months than in the March-August 2009 period.

Steven Baillie, head of loans at Sainsbury's Finance said: "Our latest car-buying index reveals an all-time low in both the number of people who intend to buy a car and also in the amount of money they are intending to spend.

"However, we hope to see the number of people looking to buy a car start to increase again in six months time. The car industry is beginning to report a growing demand for second-hand cars in particular.

"This demand seems to in turn have led to an increase in the value of second-hand cars so many people could be pleasantly surprised at how much they might get for their current vehicle when they come to upgrade it for a newer version."